BARNEGAT – An ordinance introduced during the April meeting of the Barnegat Township Committee proposed a new permit process to regulate filming and broadcasting opportunities within the township. Brought up for a second reading at the May 1 meeting, the ordinance was tabled due to some resident disapproval and the need for more discussion.
The ordinance intends to “create a permit process to facilitate and regulate entertainment industry work performed in the township i.e. filming and broadcasting projects within the township.”
The purpose of regulating the entertainment industry in town is to “safeguard the interests of township businesses and residents,” according to the document.
At the meeting, a few residents spoke up in opposition to the proposal claiming it demonstrates unconstitutional regulation. “This is a hindrance to the first amendment,” stated one resident, noting that news networks frequently film in the area.
By way of its regulation, and possible restriction, of certain kinds of film or entertainment work, residents expressed concerns that the township was censoring free speech or content.
“This ordinance is for filming…this is not about cable TV,” said Committeeman Albert Bille, who noted that he was moving to table the ordinance.
The ordinance was later tabled during the meeting for further study.
“The state is proposing new guidelines; its senate bill number 122, which is regulating to a better extent movies that are going to be done in the state of New Jersey,” said Bille. “Their rights, their taxes, the goods and the bads, and what they can film and what they can’t.”
Senate Bill 122 primarily deals with guidelines pertaining to tax credits for certain expenses during the filming process. It does not mention much in the way of public safety, however.
“I don’t want to bring in something…and any elements that that would bring in, I don’t want that to reflect [poorly] on Barnegat Township,” said Mayor Frank Caputo.
Caputo seemed to be referencing the effect a similar event had “in one of the other shore towns,” such as MTV’s Jersey Shore in Seaside Heights.
Township attorney Sean Kean noted that the ordinance is a “content neutral” proposal. This means that the township is not telling people what they can and can’t film; therefore it is not necessarily violating the constitution.
“The governing body has the ability to regulate issues of public safety,” said Kean, noting that the ordinance doesn’t intend to have any impact of areas of the industry that are not disruptive, i.e. news trucks.
Kean said this regulation process has already been done in some other municipalities. “All they’re [the state] asking for is a permit,” for public safety and nuisance reasons, he added.
“Many cities and towns in the state have no formal permit procedure. However, permits are generally required for filming such locations as county, state and national parks and historic sites, state and county highways, railroad and airport terminals and military posts,” stated a post from the Department of State website.